What causes acromegaly?
Here you can find out what causes acromegaly.
You will learn where the pituitary gland is found in the body, what functions it performs and how having too much growth hormone results in the symptoms of acromegaly.
What and where is the pituitary gland?
The pituitary gland is a very small endocrine gland; it is no larger than a pea or a cherry stone.
The pituitary gland lies in a small pocket of bone that is found at the base of the skull, in the middle of the head, directly behind your nose.
What does the pituitary gland do?
Despite its small size, the pituitary gland plays a key role in the body’s hormonal or endocrine system by controlling the production and release of many different hormones throughout the body. These hormones are involved in your growth, sexual development and reproductive function, metabolism and response to stress.
The pituitary gland controls the function of the thyroid and adrenal glands, with effects on metabolism, energy levels, and the balance of salt and water in the body.
What is growth hormone?
Growth hormone, which is also known as somatotropin, is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland throughout your life.
Growth hormone is secreted in short bursts or pulses, particularly during sleep.
What is the role of growth hormone?
In children, the release of growth hormone from the pituitary is responsible for skeletal growth. In adults, it is involved in the metabolism of muscles, bone and fat tissue.
Most of the actions of growth hormone on the body are mediated by another important hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). The liver produces this hormone.
Why does the pituitary over produce growth hormone?
The overproduction of growth hormone is usually caused by the presence of a benign tumour (an adenoma) within the pituitary gland.
While having a tumour in the head sounds very worrying, benign means not cancerous. So, acromegaly is not a type of cancer.
What happens when there is too much growth hormone?
In adults, a long-standing excess of growth hormone causes growth of soft tissues, bone and cartilage, mainly in the hands, feet, forehead and jaw.
Additionally, the internal organs can also grow in size, which may lead, for example, to an enlarged heart and eventually to heart disease.
Other possible consequences of too much growth hormone are diabetes mellitus, joint problems, sleep problems (sleep apnoea syndrome) and carpal tunnel syndrome.
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Learn about acromegaly
Learn about acromegaly including how excess growth hormone released by a pituitary tumour causes this slowly evolving condition, and the early symptoms and signs of acromegaly.
Find out more about acromegaly
Find out how acromegaly is diagnosed and the tests that healthcare professionals may use to assess acromegaly symptoms
Read about acromegaly treatment options, including surgery, medication and radiotherapy, and the goals of therapy
Read answers to some common questions that patients with acromegaly have asked